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Matt CuttsGoogle has been bringing down the hammer on spammy websites quite a bit recently with more specific penalties for sites that aren’t following guidelines. There have been several high-profile cases such as the Rap Genius penalty, and several attacks on entire spammy industries. But, if you are responsible for sites with spammy habits, a single manual action can hurt more than just one site.

It has been suggested that Google may look at your other sites when they issue manual actions, and Matt Cutts has all but confirmed that happens at least some of the time.

Marie Haynes reached out to Cutts for help dealing with a spammy client, and his responses make it clear that the client appears to be linked to “several” spammy sites. Over the course of three tweets, Cutts makes it obvious that he has checked out many of the spammer’s sites, not just the one who has received a manual action, and he even tells one way Google can tell the sites are associated.

Of course, Google probably doesn’t review every site penalized webmasters operate, but it shows they definitely do when the situation calls for it. If your spammy efforts are caught on one site, chances are you are making the same mistakes on almost every site you operate and they are all susceptible to being penalized. In the case of this client, it seems playing against the rules has created a pretty serious web of trouble.

Google-Webmaster-Tools-LogoThere’s a new manual action showing up in Google Webmaster Tools, according to Jessica Lee from Search Engine Watch. Webmaster Tools was updated over the summer so that site owners could be notified when a specific type of manual action had been taken against the site, and since then the waters have been fairly quiet. This new type of manual action, referred to as “image mismatch” is the first change we’ve seen since then.

Google says:

If you see this message on the Manual Actions page, it means that some of your site’s images may be displaying differently on Google’s search results pages than they are when viewed on your site.

As a result, Google has applied a manual action to the affected portions of your site, which will affect how your site’s images are displayed in Google. Actions that affect your whole site are listed under Site-wide matches. Actions that affect only part of your site are listed under Partial matches.

If you end up receiving that message, it is up to you to ensure that your site is showing the same images to users both on your site and within Google image search results. It is possible “anti-hotlinking” tools can cause the issue, so you may have to look through your site’s code on the server.

As with all manual penalties, once the problem is fixed you have to submit your site for reconsideration and wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, after you’ve waited for what seems like forever, you’ll get a message in your Webmaster Tools account informing whether the manual action will be revoked after review.

Manual actions are penalties at real, living Google employees have placed against your site after determining that you are violating Google’s guidelines. The majority of manual penalties have related to outright spammy practices such as user-generated spam, hidden text, and unnatural links.

Manual Actions Viewer Screenshot

Google has long been alerting webmasters when they placed a manual action against the site, but last week they made it even easier to know for sure whether a site’s search rankings are being penalized with a manual action. The search engine has added a new feature to Webmaster Tools called the Manual Actions viewer.

The Manual Actions viewer is seen under the “Search Traffic” tab, and it is meant to act as a complimentary alert to the email notifications they already send out to websites receiving a manual action. With the new tool, webmasters don’t have to rely on waiting for an email. Instead, they can check their site’s condition any time.

According to Google, less than two percent of all domains within its index are manually removed for spammy practices, so most legitimate webmasters will never see anything within the tool other than a display reading “No manual webspam actions found.”

However, for those who get targeted for spammy practices, the Manual Actions viewer will show existing webspam problems under two headings titled ‘site-wide matches’ and ‘partial matches’. They will also include information on what type of problem exists from a list of roughly a dozen categories including ‘hidden text and/or keyword stuffing’, ‘thin content’, and ‘pure spam’.

For the partial matches listed in the tool, Google also gives access to a list of affected URLs for each type of spam problem. For example, if you have a notification for thin content, you will be able to see all the URLs targeted. There is a limit of 1,000 URLs per problem category, but that should be plenty for al but massive websites like YouTube.

Within the tool, there is also quick access to a new ‘Request a Review’ button that appears any time there are manual actions listed. When you click the button, a pop-up window opens which lets the webmaster give Google details on how you have resolved the issues.